TECH TALK: The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem: 10 Ideas to Tap Invisible Markets (Part 2)

Continuing with the ideas outlined by Vijay Mahajan, Marcos V. Pratini De Moraes and Jerry Wind in their paper (Marketing Management, Winter 2000) on The Invisible Global Markets in the context of building our Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) ecosystem:

6. Recognise that low income doesnt mean low quality expectations: When we talk of the 5KPC, we are not asking users to compromise in features, applications or performance. We are giving them a full-fledged computer with state-of-the-art performance and an easy-to-use GUI. In fact, in terms of convenience and the applications that are available, these users, much like their cellphone brethren in the emerging markets, have an opportunity to leapfrog existing users in the developed nations because of their lack of legacy.

7. Use demand pooling to reach critical mass: This is where the concept of telecentres comes in. Just like STD PCOs provide telecom access to a neighbourhood obviating the need for individual ownership, the telecentres can become the computing and communications centres to provide access to individuals and enterprises in the area. Cybercafes have done much the same in India so far by offering Internet access for as little as Rs 20 (40 cents) an hour. But what has been missed out is the access to computing and applications. The telecentres can become the instant business office for SMEs and allow them to test-drive applications before they decide to invest in computing on their own.

8. Bring your own infrastructure: Connectivity and bandwidth has been a bugbear for much of the worlds emerging markets. WiFi is the way to bring about the broadband communications revolution in these markets. As WiFi technology improves and its costs fall, they create the infrastructure to make possible the 5KPCs which can now be lit up in the presence of a network. This infrastructure leverages the newest developments in wireless technologies. Because it uses open spectrum and is built-out in a distributed manner (customer-owned networks), the costs are lower as compared to 3G networks.

9. Rethink the entire marketing and business strategy: Creative and innovative solutions will be needed to tap into these new markets. One example is to consider a rental business model, based on utility pricing. For example, the hardware, software and communications could be provided for as little as Rs 500 per month, creating a 3-year total cost of ownership of Rs 18,000, which should be enough to allow the entire value-chain to offer the services profitably. Another idea we have discussed earlier is the use of older computers and accessories, discarded by countries like US and Japan.

10. Bridge the digital divide: This is exactly what the 5KPC ecosystem, along with its concomitant ideas of the thick-server, open-source software and WiFi make possible. They make computing affordable, thus making it possible to take it to the technology have-nots, across the digital divide. The digital divide can be bridged by disruptive innovations. For example, we can think of building an SME Barter network cash is for them an incredibly valuable resource. College students can become the next big open-source developer community. The new markets and opportunities are only limited by our imagination.

With this background behind us, let us now look at each of the seven markets that we have mentioned schools, colleges, government, bank branches, SMEs, homes and telecentres. We will see how the 5KPC ecosystem can bring about dramatic changes in each of these areas in order to make the vision of a connected computer accessible to every employee and family a reality.

Tomorrow: Schools

TECH TALK The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.